Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Turkey Day.....

No I haven't forgotten about the Blog. I'll be back after the holiday with some new posts. In the meantime, Have a Very Happy Thanksgiving!

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

The Best Television Show Opening...Period! The Mickey Mouse Club!

I'm posting this because believe it or not, many people today have never seen it.
But I'm sure some of you who have, will not protest too much. This is the extended version of the 1955 Mickey Mouse Club. It was produced in color, but at the time of it's original broadcast, appeared in black and white on a small television screens across the nation on ABC. In my opinion, I think that this is the best opening for a television show ever done, live action or animated. There's a lot of good opening segments for television shows like The Munsters, I Dream Of Jeannie, Get Smart, Green Acres, The Munsters, Bewitched, etc. I'd say the closest to the energy of this piece is one of the openings to The Drew Carey Show, but even then, Carey's title sequence had clips from the show cut into the opening.
MMC's opening was all NEW original footage....and what an opening. I never get tired watching it!
Every weekday in 1955, this title sequence (in glorious Black and white) excited millions of kids, preparing them for the fun to follow.
The Mickey Mouse Club had lots of hooks to keep you watching the show, but this opening sequence shot in eye popping color with an instantly hummable theme by Mousekeleader Jimmie Dodd and fun animation and Direction by Bill Justice, make this 3 minute title opener a supreme winner, hands down.
FYI, most people are familiar with the shorter version of the title, as much of the footage in the middle was cut out, making it a much tighter piece. However, I still prefer the extended opening.
It's a credit to Walt Disney for having the foresight to produce this opening in color and although the color footage isn't currently available on You Tube, it is available on one of the Disney Treasures DVD sets. That version is pure candy for the eyes and is well worth seeing!

Monday, November 12, 2007

Jiminy Cricket's Encyclopedia

Here's another clip from the 1955 Mickey Mouse Club featuring Jiminy Cricket. Some of these Cricket edutainment shorts were really terrific...very well animated and extremely entertaining. This one is in black and white, but even so, the animation is simply irresistible to watch...the design is great, the movement cool and even the song by Jimmie Dodd is extremely catchy. I really love neat animation like's just sad that there isn't more of this stuff being done today. I believe Disney vet Bill Justice Directed this as well as some other Jiminy Cricket shorts for the MMC.
Does anyone know who animated this?

Some Disney Animators playing Dixieland

Here's something pretty rare...a bunch of Disney personal playing Dixieland Jazz! It's the Firehouse Five Plus Two and they were really something...take a look...see if you can spot Animators Ward Kimball and Frank Thomas. From what I hear they were pretty popular in their day recording 20 record albums. The band stayed together for over 20 years and it was just a sideline or hobby for these guys. Some hobby...these guys had TWO careers!
You can still buy a bunch of their albums on CD! Enjoy...this clip is from the old Mickey Mouse Club. Oh...and the kid who's playing the drums is really playing the drums. He's Cubby O' Brien and to this day still plays the drums professionally!

Saturday, November 10, 2007


I don't know why, but I've drawn a lot of mice over the years. Here's a few more. I hope you're not too squeamish! Actually, this is a page from my sketchbook and the page size was a little too large for the scanner, but I think I got most of the page in. Just for the record, these sketches were done with a cobalt blue Polychromos pencil.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Disney's Other Genius: Bill Walsh

I'm a big fan of the classic Disney live action product that I grew up on during the 60's and 70's. They were fun movies that I would see with my family and sure enough, Mom, Dad, sis and I would really enjoy these pictures. As I mentioned in an earlier post, these films were not designed to be masterworks of movie making. The goals were quite entertain the masses. Sometimes they hit it, sometimes they missed. Often enough these movies had enough warmth, drama and comedy to have you leaving the theatre feeling good about what you'd just seen. And sometimes, you left the theatre with the feeling that you had just seen something special.
I'd say most of those films were written and produced by Bill Walsh.
Bill Walsh started at Disney in the 40's in publicity and somehow managed to write the Mickey Mouse Comic strip. He soon became a favorite of Walts' and ended up producing some of the early one shot Christmas TV shows in the 50's.
He eventually became the producer of The Disneyland TV series producing one hour of content each week. With Walt impressed by Walsh's abilities, he quickly moved him into overseeing the Mickey Mouse Club producing over 5 hours of content every week!
In the late 50's, Walt moved Bill into the position of motion picture writer and associate producer with The Shaggy Dog. His rise was fast afterwards and soon became one of Walt Disney's top producers. When Walt Disney died in December of 1966, Bill Walsh was considered for Walt's job. He preferred to work on individual projects and turned it down.
You don't hear much of Bill Walsh anymore, but he was considered one of the most successful producers in Hollywood and just about every studio in town made him offers to leave Disney. Bill turned them all down and stayed at Disney right up until his death in 1975. His films were box office bonanzas, movies like The Shaggy Dog, The Absent Minded Professor, That Darn Cat, The Love Bug and Bedknobs & Broomsticks and of course Mary Poppins. As a matter of fact, Poppins and The Love Bug were the top grossing pictures in their years of release!
Walsh would often work with Disney story sketch man Don DaGradi and create these marvelous movies that were half live action comedy, half cartoon, but somehow in his way of writing these films, Bill Walsh was able to take things that were far out in conception and make them plausible. If you remember Basketball Players bouncing up and down on a court, or a Volkswagon skipping like a stone across water, or people have tea parties on the ceiling, then you're remembering something dreamed up by the imagination of Bill Walsh and Don DaGradi.
Walsh's favorite director was Robert Stevenson because of his detail oriented, no nonsense approach to movie making. Because Walsh used storyboards to pre-direct and nail down every element, Stevenson adhered to them and focused on accuracy and performance. When all the cylinders were working, the results were often magical.
Out of all the executives at Disney, Bill Walsh had the respect of the creatives. He was as close in spirit to Walt Disney as you could get. After Bill Walsh passed away, many animators in the studio considered retirement because Walsh was one of the FEW creatives left in management. Bill was so devoted to Walt Disney and the studio in general, that when he died, Walsh was buried within a few feet of Walts' final resting place in Forest Lawn Glendale.
Here's a couple of moments of a movie produced by Walsh, written by Walsh and DaGradi and Directed by Robert Stevenson called Blackbeards Ghost, which is one of my favorite Disney films. It's a film that's full of fun, fantasy and humor.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Some Pen sketches

I like to switch mediums every now and then. I love to work with a thick black crayon or a sharpie to do some quick drawings, but I'll work with anything as long as the tool gives me a nice flowing line. John Kricfalusi introduced me to Primacolour Pencils on Mighty Mouse, The New Adventures, but my favorites are Blaisdell Layout Pencils, Polychromos and the now extinct Blackwing pencils, which I have a few stubs laying around the house somewhere.

Sometimes, I like to take a cheap Bic pen and do some sketches. They're actually pretty great to sketch with and I like the line quality, which kind of resembles that Disney Zerox look of the 60's and 70's. Making drawings with a permanent pen really forces you to think before you lay a line down. I think it's a pretty good exercise from time to time.